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Pop Culture Rules
by Karma Waltonen

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A few weeks ago, the AV CLUB at THE ONION wrote the following article: http://www.avclub.com/articles/personal-popculture-rules,38614/ The article posed the following questions to several people:

What are your pop-culture rules? That is, the up-front guidelines that will prevent you from seeing/reading/listening to something, or that will guarantee that you'll see/read/listen to it even if reviews or word of mouth or past experience with the creators have been negative?

I thought I would share a few of my movie pop-culture rules. They're subjective, of course. And each rule has managed to have its exceptions.

Here's what I tend to avoid:

1. Films with Nickolas Cage and Juliette Lewis. They both bother me. The former overacts and the latter is really good at playing white trash. Too good.

2. Horror films. They just aren't my thing. I don't enjoy being scared. However, I do make exceptions for sci-fi/fantasy horror. I can take dinosaurs or aliens coming after people. People coming after other people is too much, especially since those stories tend to have rapes or at least the threat of rapes as well. I'm not likely to be eaten by dinosaurs, attacked by ghosts, or threatened by aliens, but I
am likely to die of violence at the hands of another human and I'd rather not be reminded of that.

3. 3-D. The current trend is actually keeping me out of the theatres. And it's not just me—several of my friends last night were saying that they couldn't see the new ALICE movie until it moved to a regular screen. Why the aversion? Well, 3-D gives many of us headaches, makes some of us dizzy, and just plain pisses the rest of us off. This reliance on "new" technology hasn't been a good thing for the storytelling feature of films (yes, I'm referring mainly to AVATAR). Every time I have to think "wow, that shot is amazing," I'm actually taken out of the film and outside is not where I want to be.

4. Those awful "parody" films they keep coming out with lately (SCARY MOVIE, TEEN MOVIE, TITANS, etc). If you want parody, watch self-reflexive films (SCREAM rather than SCARY MOVIE, or UHF, or anything by Mel Brooks).

5. AMERICAN-PIE sequels and their clones. Readers of my columns know that I don't have anything against adolescent humor, but I prefer films that also hook me on other levels too—that surprise me, that endear me to the characters, etc.

6. JACKASS and its clones. Do I even have to say

Here's what I tend to embrace:

1. Anything with Eddie Izzard, Salma Hayek, Katharine Hepburn, Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Weird Al Yankovic, Cary Grant, Muppets, Simon Pegg, or Colin Firth.

2. Revisions of the classics—I can't help it, I'm an English teacher. It's my pleasure and my job to see what people are making of Shakespeare and Jane Austen and all those other wonderful people I teach. Sometimes the revisions are awful, but sometimes they're surprising and wonderful (SCOTLAND, PA & the BBC PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, for example).

3. Sci-fi and Fantasy. Yes, I'm a nerd. Will I watch anything that comes out of the STAR WARS, LORD OF THE RINGS, STAR TREK, and HARRY POTTER franchises? Yes, I will. I won't defend every one of them, but I will be there in the theatre when they come out.

4. Submarine movies. I have always loved submarine movies. I'm not exactly sure why. The writing tends to be passable, the romantic subplots tend to be missing, and the tension tends to be high. In fact, there have been many Valentine's Days when I've sat down with a 6-pack and THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. (How I wish I'd done that last month!)

5. All things British. Regular readers know that I'm an
anglophile and that I teach a course on British Humour. I could claim that it's part of my job to check out all the latest British films and television, but I know I'd be doing the same thing even if I'd become an accountant, like my family once tried to make me into.

6. Stand-up performance films. One of the questions I ask my students on the first day is who their favorite stand-up comics are. There are a surprising number of them who have never seen stand-up comedy at all. What are they doing in their spare time? Why wouldn't they want as much laughter in their life as possible?

I'm sure there are some things I've forgotten. But let me throw the question open to you—what are your pop culture rules?

Before I sign off, has everyone seen this amazing Trailer For Every Oscar-Winning Movie Ever?

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Mar 24, 2010 1:02 AM
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Cool stuff, Dr. Karma! Big agreement on Nic Cage and 3D, as you know.

A few of my don'ts: Anything directed or produced by Michael Bay, Roland Emmerich, or Jerry Bruckheimer; heartless remakes or adaptations that piss all over my childhood (Ramona and Beezus I'm looking at you); formulaic romcoms (so, most of them); "omega male" movies about loser guys getting girls who are too good for them; torture porn... I could go on awhile but that's the gist.

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Comedies with Dr. Karma
Every other Wednesday

Dr. Karma discusses all things comic, from the classics to what may become classics. Laugh with, but not at, her, please.

Other Columns
Other columns by Karma Waltonen:

Goodbye -- Dr. Karma

The Dictator and Dark Shadows

Pirates and Whedon Movies: In Theatres Now!

A Touch of Cult

Our Random Favorites

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Karma Waltonen
Dr. Karma is a silly, nerdy know-it-all, but in a good way. She brings all her overeducation to discuss that which truly matters: comedy. As some famous guy once said: “And if I laugh at any mortal thing, ‘tis that I may not weep.” Or something like that.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Karma Waltonen by clicking here.

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